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Behavioral economics meets evolved psychology

Rebekah worked for a few years at Renaissance after graduating from Stanford. A former colleague recalls her as smart but haughty. In , she married a Frenchman, Sylvain Mirochnikoff, who is a managing director of Morgan Stanley. They had four children and bought a twenty-eight-million-dollar property—six apartments joined together—at Trump Place, on the Upper West Side.

Now forty-three, she is divorcing Mirochnikoff.

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She homeschools the children, but in recent years she has become consumed by politics. Their brains are almost too strong. After the Citizens United decision, in , the Mercers were among the first people to take advantage of the opportunity to spend more money on politics.

In Oregon, they quietly gave money to a super PAC —an independent campaign-related group that could now take unlimited donations. The proposed building was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero.

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The ads, which were meant to boost a Conservative Party candidate for governor, were condemned as Islamophobic. Press accounts speculated that Robert Mercer may have targeted DeFazio because DeFazio had proposed a tax on a type of high-volume stock trade that Renaissance frequently made. The Mercers became his devoted supporters after reading Access to Energy , an offbeat scientific newsletter that he writes. Some of the money was used to buy freezers in which Robinson is storing some fourteen thousand samples of human urine.

Robinson has said that, by studying the urine, he will find new ways of extending the human life span. Robinson holds a degree in chemistry from Caltech, but his work is not respected in most scientific circles. Robert and Rebekah Mercer have praised a curriculum that Robinson sells. Even though was a successful election year for Republicans, the candidates that the Mercers had supported in Oregon and New York both lost decisively. Their investments had achieved nothing.

Wealthy political donors sometimes make easy marks for campaign operatives. The consultants suck it out of them. By , the Mercers had joined forces with Charles and David Koch, who own Koch Industries, and who have run a powerful political machine for decades. Eventually, they contributed more than twenty-five million. The group swears participants to secrecy. But a leaked roster revealed that it included many people who promoted anti-Clinton conspiracy stories, including Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily. In , the Mercers met Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the fiery news outlet that bears his name, at a conference organized by the Club for Growth, a conservative group.

They were so impressed by him that they became interested in investing in his operation.

Changing the Game: How to Profit From Your Passion for Sports by a Wall Street Investment Manager

Breitbart, a gleefully offensive provocateur, was the temperamental opposite of Robert Mercer. Breitbart soon introduced the Mercers to Steve Bannon. A Harvard Business School graduate, Bannon had worked at Goldman Sachs, but he eventually left the world of finance and began making political films. His ambition, apparently, was to become the Michael Moore of the right.

A voracious reader, he was quick and charming, but, according to the former associate, he had a chip on his shoulder about class.

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He often spoke of having grown up in a blue-collar Irish Catholic family in Richmond, Virginia, and of having served as a naval officer when he was young. Bannon seemed to feel excluded from the social world of Wall Street peers who had attended prep schools. He had left Goldman Sachs, in , without making partner, and, though he was well off, he had missed out on the gigantic profits that partners had made when the company went public, in In , Bannon drafted a business plan for the Mercers that called for them to invest ten million dollars in Breitbart News, in exchange for a large stake.

At the time, the Breitbart site was little more than a collection of blogs. The Washington Post recently published a house-rental lease that Bannon signed in , on which he said that his salary at Breitbart News was seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It became a new force on the right, boosting extreme insurgents against the G. But it also provided a public forum for previously shunned white-nationalist, sexist, and racist voices. One pundit hired by Bannon was Milo Yiannopoulos, who specialized in puerile insults.

He recently resigned from the site, after a video of him lewdly defending pederasty went viral. In , Bannon began hosting a radio show that often featured Patrick Caddell, who effectively had been banished by Democratic Party leaders after years of tempestuous campaigns and fallings-out. By , Breitbart News claims, it had the most shared political content on Facebook, giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match. Her views about the Washington establishment, including the Republican leadership, are scathing.

In , David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United, introduced Trump to Bannon; at the time, Trump was thinking about running against Obama. Bannon and Trump met at Trump Tower and discussed a possible campaign.

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Trump decided against the idea, but the two kept in touch, and Bannon gave Trump admiring coverage. Bannon noticed that, when Trump spoke to crowds, people were electrified. No one else would. It allowed us to define our narrative and communicate our message. Trump was developing his message. The Mercer Family Foundation kept expanding its political investments. The Mercers have been among the M. In , the Mercer Family Foundation donated two million dollars to Citizens United, which had trafficked in Clinton hatred for years. When the e-mails were released, her Presidential campaign became mired in negative news stories.

Bannon has often collaborated with Bossie, producing half a dozen films with him. In , Bossie suggested a new joint project: a movie that urged Democrats and independents to abandon Obama in the Presidential election.

How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.

Caddell and Bannon made an unholy alliance, but they had things in common: both men were Irish Catholic sons of the South, scourges to their respective parties, and prone to apocalyptic pronouncements. Even so, the Mercers took a hefty tax deduction for their two-million-dollar donation to Citizens United. The film ended by depicting an animated Clinton literally coughing herself to death. On Election Night in , the Mercers and other top conservative donors settled into the V. Soon afterward, Republican Party officials invited big donors to the University Club, in New York, for a postmortem on the election.

That year, Rebekah Mercer joined the board of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit group, based in Tallahassee, which Bannon had recently founded.

In , the Mercer Family Foundation contributed a million dollars to the institute, and in it contributed another million. The G. During this period, the Mercers continued giving money to election campaigns. Rebekah Mercer, meanwhile, was growing impatient with the Kochs. She felt that they needed to investigate why their network had failed to defeat Obama in Instead, the Kochs gathered donors and presented them with more empty rhetoric. Mercer demanded an accounting of what had gone wrong, and when they ignored her she decided to start her own operation.

In a further blow, Mercer soured several other top donors on the Kochs.

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In , one area in which the Republicans had lagged badly behind the Democrats was in the use of digital analytics. The Mercers decided to finance their own big-data project. In , Michal Kosinski, a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Cambridge, was working in the emerging field of psychometrics, the quantitative study of human characteristics.

He learned from a colleague that a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, wanted to hire academics to pursue similar research, for commercial purposes. Kosinski had circulated personality tests on Facebook and, in the process, obtained huge amounts of information about users. Those who took the Facebook quizzes, however, had been promised that the information would be used strictly for academic purposes. Kosinski felt that repurposing it for commercial use was unethical, and possibly illegal. His concerns deepened when he researched S.

He was disturbed to learn that the company specialized in psychological warfare, and in influencing elections. He spurned the chance to work with S. Kosinski was further disconcerted when he learned that a new American affiliate of S. It is unclear if the Mercers have pushed Cambridge Analytica to cross that line. A company spokesman declined to comment for this story. What is clear is that Mercer, having revolutionized the use of data on Wall Street, was eager to accomplish the same feat in the political realm.

He screened many data-mining companies before investing, and he chose Cambridge Analytica, in part, because its high concentration of accomplished scientists reminded him of Renaissance Technologies. Rebekah Mercer, too, has been deeply involved in the venture.